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Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Section 5)


Summary: Allow community members to attend Police Review Board hearings and improve transparency; clarify PRB's ability to require more investigation.

Generally confusing to the public, the City established the Police Review Board as a body internal to the Police Bureau in 2004, codifying and modifying it in City Code in 2010.*-20 PRBs consist of 5-7 members, depending whether they are to review "performance" cases (generally, cases with one finding that an officer was out of policy) or excessive/deadly force cases. In either scenario, Police Bureau employees make up a majority of the Committee: An Assistant Chief, the officer's commander, and 1-2 "peer" officers (3-4 members total) are joined by the a senior IPR staff person and 1-2 community members (2-3 members total).

In its letter of findings, the DOJ wrote, "Curiously, a complaining civilian, if one is involved in the incident being reviewed, is not permitted to attend PPB's presentation" (p. 32). Despite this finding, the Agreement does not include anything to allow the complainant (or his/her survivor) to attend these hearings. Even though community members may appeal PRB's findings (except, apparently, in deadly force cases as noted in section 1) to the Citizen Review Committee, they can't discuss what happened with the people making a decision on whether the officer was in or out of policy. CRC meetings are entirely open to the public. We would like eventually to see the PRB and CRC processes more fully integrated, and open to the public. A possible step toward that might be allowing the media into the PRB hearings with some caveats on what can be reported due to privacy laws. But at the very least, the community members involved in the incident should have a presence at these hearings.

Along those lines, the PRB hearings are considered completely confidential.*-21 The DOJ Agreement (paragraphs 131 a&b) attempts to build community confidence in this system and integrate the CRC into the PRB by asking CRC members to rotate onto the PRB in force cases.*-22 However, the Agreement's veil of confidentiality implies that CRC will not even be able to talk generally about their experience being part of the secretive body (paragraphs 131-c, d-iii, and e-v).

Meanwhile, the PRB and CRC are each given the authority under the Agreement to ask Internal Affairs or IPR to conduct more investigation on a misconduct claim in order to generate meaningful findings (paragraphs 132 and 136). But the language in both sections requires that the "investigating entity must make reasonable attempts to conduct the additional investigation within 10 business days or provide a written statement why additional time is needed." The language does not require that the investigation ever be completed, nor what PRB or CRC can do if the investigating body simply refuses to do what they are asked. This is particularly important as the Bureau has refused to do more investigation in at least three cases that went before the CRC in the past two years. The Agreement needs to make clear that when these bodies ask for more information, they shall be accommodated.

We have not heard anyone express that the secretive and exclusive nature of the PRB is a "fair, adequate or reasonable" way to remedy misconduct imposed upon persons with mental health crisis, or for that matter, anyone in the community. We urge that the Agreement include provisions for community members to attend, that there be more transparency and that PRB's (and CRC's) request for more investigation must be fulfilled.

*-20- City Code 3.20.140
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*-21- City Code 3.20.140 [C][1][a][1][c]
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*-22- newly adopted City Code 3.20.140 [C][2] (NOTE: Not on line yet 1/31/14)
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DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

DOJ / City of Portland Settlment Agreement (November 14, 2012)

Next Section: 6. Use of Force and the DOJ Agreement

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Testimony sections:

1. Appealing Findings
  on Deadly Force Cases

2. Taser Use
  and the DOJ Agreement

3. Accountability--
  Independent Police Review

4. Accountability--
  Citizen Review Committee

5. Accountability--
  Police Review Board

6. Use of Force
  and the DOJ Agreement

7. Mental Health Provisions
8. Training
  and the DOJ Agreement

9. Tracking Police Contacts
  / Demographic Information

10. Implementation and

11. Oversight of the
  Agreement / Conclusion

(Additional Materials

Testimony in pdf format
  (16 pgs)

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

Posted January 31, 2014

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